Climate crunch time on Budget Day

In Geelong, the annual budget was adopted as a draft at a city council meeting on 13 April 2014. The new budget means cuts to the council’s sustainability initiative, Future Proofing Geelong. The federal government released the budget for the nation as a whole on the same day. The national budget outlines a much longer list of climate safety-related energy reduction and renewable energy schemes and initiatives which now will be not only cut but stopped.

Guests:
• Lisa Gleeson, Red Cinema [introduced at 14:02]
• Mike Lawrence, CEO, Greenline Engineering [introduced at 32:20]

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Listen to The Sustainable Hour no. 25:

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“Steve Jobs said: ‘You’ve got to believe it before you see it’, and this is the name of the game in bringing people in.” Mike Lawrence – about how to mobilise change

20 billion dollars lost to the budget

“What has happened to Australia’s climate and energy policies the last 24 hours is a significant thing that people should be aware of. Approximately 15 billion dollars that would have been harvested through the current climate policy with a cost on pollution, a cost on carbon, will be lost to the budget. And if you extend that through to 2020, then that looks like 20 billion dollars which has come out of the budget. And yet there is a direct action program which is paying people to continue to pollute. It is just farcical,” said Mike Lawrence, CEO, Greenline Engineering [start: 32:20] in this edition of The Sustainable Hour, the 25th in the series, where we also discuss what could cause politics and people to change, and how can we lobby more effectively for a a clean, green and bright future for our children and future generations.

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Geelong’s budget
On the wall of the Geelong city council four words are printed in big letters:
‘Responsibility – Respect – Integrity – Innovation’
You would think that Reponsibility would mean that we’d care about protecting our children from a climate change catastrophe.
Respect would define not only how we treat each other, but also our relationship with the land we live on, the water we and our animals drink, and the nature which surrounds us.
Integrity would ensure our ability to resist corruption and the pressure and temptations from big, but dirty money delivered by a ruthless gas and coal mining industry which tries to make everyone believe that climate change is a hoax and a question of belief.
Innovation would be all about speeding up the urgently needed transition to renewable energy quicker than anyone thought possible, motivated by all the new jobs this is going to create in the process.

But, no. This was not the case, when the city council met on 13 April 2014 to have their final discussion and make a decision on the 292 million dollars operating expenditure for the next year. It was a budget which signaled that the council prioritizes Christmas decorations as more than four times more important to the city than its initiatives in the field of sustainability, cleantech and community strengthening. The budget allocated $300,000 for Future Proofing Geelong, $240,000 for Councillor Community Grants and $2 million for Christmas decorations.

The budget doesn’t specify how much is going to be committed to new cycling infrastructure or to the Principle Bicycle Network which the Council recently adopted.

» The draft budget is now available for public comments until 10 June 2014. Submissions can be emailed to contactus@geelongcity.vic.gov.au. Read more about this on  www.geelongaustralia.com.au


Council’s position on fracking still unclear
The Mayor of Geelong, Cr Darryn Lyons, reconfirmed during the Public Question Time that he does not support fracking. Cr Andy Richards doesn’t either, and Cr John Erwine even sounded somewhat upset about it, after he has recently seen a documentary about it: “I’m VERY opposed to fracking,” he stated.

However, the council has not yet had a discussion or a vote about its position on fracking.

Cr Andy Richards told that his own family comes from Queensland, and he is well aware of the health impacts that fracking is having there. He promised that the issue “will be dealt with properly” in the council in the coming months.

Council’s position on fracking will be addressed in the Environmental Management Strategy which is undergoing considerable redevelopment and which will come before Council in late June, early July 2014.


The mayor likes verge gardens
Another question about verge gardens – vegetable gardens grown in public areas – revealed that the mayor likes verge gardens, and that a consultation process is being opened via the Council’s ‘Have Your Say’ mechanism in reference to actually change the current Local Laws about nature strips in residential areas of Geelong.

A letter with response to Geelong Sustainability Group’s concerns (which they wrote to the Acting CEO in beginning of May 2014) was said to have been signed and sent on the same day. The woman in East Geelong who became famous for her verge garden in front of her house, which council had ordered her to remove, has now instead been given a reprieve until after the consultation process.

That this is a matter that has public interest and concern was illustrated by the fact that the Geelong Advertiser’s story about the East Geelong incident received 600 Facebook-‘likes’ and 500 comments. A petition had 200 signatures in two days.


Audio excerpt from this Sustainable Hour

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Mark Smith: about the coal mine and power station in Anglesea
Excerpt of Mark Smith’s opening speech at a community meeting in Anglesea town hall on 20 April 2014, organised by Surf Coast Air Action, and attended by around 250 residents of Anglesea to discuss the future of the Alcoa coal mine and power station. [Introduced at 20:33 in the program]

[Download audiofile]

Ruby Dingle speaks up for clean air in Anglesea
Eloquent forward thinking children of Anglesea call for their voices to be uploaded about coal and climate

» Read more on:  www.surfcoasttimes.com.au and www.surfcoast.airaction.org/?p=368



Topics related to the interview with Mike Lawrence

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Electricity prices and energy:

How a whole nation was deceived

Scrapping the carbon tax claiming that the aim of this would be to lower electricity prices is similar to pissing in your trousers to keep warm: extremely short-sighted.

This video about the super-peak electricity generators that charge $12,000 an hour explains why the use of these peak generators pump electricity prices up – and how relatively few wind turbines could do make a difference to the benefit of the consumers.

Those Australians who can remember as far back as to August-September 2013 might recall how Tony Abbott’s successful election campaign blamed the carbon tax for an increase in electricity prices. Unfortunately his opponents in the election had not bothered to educate themselves on this matter, so no one challenged Mr Abbott’s claims. Abbott was able to make a majority of the Australian voters believe that scrapping the carbon tax would fix the problem with the sky-rocketing electricity prices.

Published on youtube.com by Powershop Australia on 8 May 2014.

“If there’s one thing Powershop likes, it’s cheaper power. Despite the common view, renewable energy is helping to drive down power prices and save you money. 

Doesn’t sound right, does it? Watch this video to find out how and why it works! If you want cheaper power, be like Powershop and support the Renewable Energy Target.”

On 30 April, as part of the ‘Energy Futures’ series, the Melbourne Energy Institute and Grattan Institute co-hosted a public forum on the future of peak demand in Australia.

Grattan Institute and Melbourne Energy Institute:
Coping with hotter summers: the challenge for our electricity system


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Wind share of market now up to five percent

Wind energy’s share of Australia’s main electricity market jumped to a record last month, helping to curb emissions from the power sector even as hydro output shrank, according to energy consultancy Pitt & Sherry.

Wind farms, derided last week by Treasurer Joe Hockey as “utterly offensive” blights on the landscape, increased their share of the market to a record 4.6 per cent, up one percentage point from a year earlier, the company said in its monthly CEDEX report.

With major black-coal fired plants such as Liddell and Bayswater in NSW continuing to operate well short of capacity, greenhouse gas emissions from the National Electricity Market for the month were 5.8 million tonnes lower than a year earlier, or down 3.5 per cent.

Coal’s share of the market remained near its record low of 73.8 per cent.

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/wind-energy-surges-to-record-share-as-coal-ebbs-20140505-zr4rg.html

These statements from a politician, who should know better, show very little understanding of the science of climate change. This science is demanding that we must leave fossil fuels in the ground and replace them with renewables



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Calls on company CEOs

Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb now calls on company CEOs to take leadership on climate change. He urges Australia to listen to the science and act constructively on the message.

As long as leading politicians continue to rule in the interests of the powerful fossil fuel industry lobby groups, ignoring the science for short-term and selfish gains, while deceiving the populations in which interest they were assigned to serve and protect, company CEOs now have the option to make a huge difference and lead by example.

CEO’s of IKEA, Apple, Virgin and many other international companies are already doing this. Many more need to follow.

» CEOs in search of inspiration could start here:  www.climatesafety.info/?page_id=1092



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Budget: Australia spends more on its national blood program than on climate change

“The government will spend more on its national blood program than climate change on all but the first of those four years. Graeme Pearman, a scientist who led CSIRO’s atmospheric research team for a decade until his retirement in 2002, said the government had adopted an “extreme” ideological approach in all but rejecting global warming as an issue despite ever-mounting evidence of the threat posed by more frequent extreme weather.”

Article by Peter Hannam and Lisa Cox in Sydney Morning Herald on 14 May 2014:
Tony Abbott’s ‘extreme’ climate stance sets back policy decades, critics say



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Australia Institute: The Budget Blow by Blow

The climate
While this year’s budget buzz word from the government is ‘sustainability’, this clearly doesn’t extend to the planet. Climate change programs and agencies are being cut, and the carbon price is to be repealed. While the government has committed to an emission reduction fund, most experts are dubious of how successful it will be. Given Hockey’s distaste for wind farms, it’s not looking too good.

While the government may be unconvinced by a problem that 97% of climate scientist think is a very serious issue, they are determined to take precautions against some potential problems. The government recommitted to increasing defence spending to two per cent of GDP. This will see spending on defence rise by more than $10 billion per year to protect us against an as yet unspecified threat.

The winners
The big winner from this budget is business. While the government has asked low and middle income households to do the heavy lifting, it appears they will also have to carry business, particularly the big mining companies. The miners get a $5 billion tax cut in the form of the repeal of the mining tax. While the government re-indexes excise on fuel, the big miners keep their fuel tax credit scheme which allows them to write the tax off against their profits.


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The Australian government axes billions in clean energy

The Renewable Energy Target is next

While the axing of so many renewable and low-emission programs was predicted, it is significant. The Australian government cuts to programs driving greater renewable and low-emission energy use come just as we’re being advised to do precisely the opposite by global experts.

Considering the consequences for our children and grandchildren, this is both critical and criminal.

“The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, set up to support new and emerging renewable technologies into production and deployment, including funding world-leading solar research, is set to be scrapped, a cut of $1.3 billion.
That’s despite the Coalition’s repeated pre-election promises to keep it.

Other axed industry and community clean energy programs include the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund, the National Low Emission Coal Initiative, Energy Efficiency Programmes, the National Solar Schools Plan, Energy Efficiency Information Grants and Low Carbon Communities.

After Tuesday night’s climate cull, there is only the Renewable Energy Target left. Of course, the power industry is calling for it to be a floating target, little over a decade after they wanted a fixed target.”

» www.businessspectator.com.au



Topics we also talked about in The Sustainable Hour

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Films about environment in Palestine and India

At Geelong Trades Hall this Friday evening will be an Al Nakba commemoration with raising the Palestinian flag, enjoying a delicious halal dinner and watching two short films on the water and environmental crisis in Gaza and the West Bank.

‘Gaza: water under siege’ and ‘Water Crisis in the West Bank’ offer an insight into the dire situation facing the Palestinian people in terms of health, food and environmental security as they face ever tougher water restrictions.

Entry is by donation and the venue, Geelong Trades Hall, is at 127 Myers Street. Bookings not necessary.


Rafea: Solar Mama Documentary Film Trailer

‘Solar Mama’ is shown at Trades Hall in Geelong on 20 June 2014.



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Fracking meeting on 28 May in Surf Coast

Winchelsea Business and Tourism Association is organising a forum at the Winchelsea Hub on Wednesday 28 May 2014 at 5.45pm to hear ABC Radio’s Jon Faine moderate a Q&A-style debate on unconventional gas exploration.

The Sustainable Hour has asked if the speakers would allow us to audio record it and broadcast excerpts of it in our radio show. The organisers inquired for us, and replied: “Unfortunately we have NOT been able to get consent from speakers to record and broadcast the forum but look forward to your attendance otherwise.”

This tells a little story of its own about the problem with the fracking industry: The secrecy, the lies, and the manipulation with facts. If everything was operated in an open, honest and environmentally safe manner, then why would some of the speakers in this panel be having a problem with being recorded and broadcasted?

The Sustainable Hour did this at a very similar meeting recently, and have so far recorded and broadcasted four other public meetings about fracking during 2013 and 2014. This is the first time we are met with this kind of concern.

We can only assume that it must be because this is also the first time that the Director of the fracking company Lakes Oil, which has a license to drill in the ground near Geelong and Surf Coast, will come to the microphone at a public meeting in our region.

“Come along and enjoy some community networking, settle back and listen to Jon Faine challenge our panel of legal, environmental, scientific, development and economic experts, and join in the debate,” writes the organisers.

» See more on the Facebook event page:  www.facebook.com

» Details on  www.geelongsustainability.org.au



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West Antarctica ice is undergoing ‘unstoppable’ melting

The ice in West Antarctica is undergoing ‘unstoppable’ melting and the sea level may rise, as a result, by between one and four metres over the coming several hundred years or so. This is clearly terrible news. But what are we to make of it?

Surely there must be some way of stopping the loss of the ice sheet? If we stop the world getting to 2°C, surely that must do the job? Well, the researchers don’t think so. They think that the current temperature is high enough already to keep the melting going.

It’s the sort of thing we might have expected to hear in 40 or 50 years time. Can it really be true – or is it some kind of beat-up by the media? Unfortunately the news comes from scientifically respectable sources.


See video:

Sydney Morning Herald – 13 May 2014:
Sea levels to rise as West Antarctic ice sheet melts
A collapse of the giant West Antarctic ice sheet appears ”inevitable”, with only the timing of the melting and resulting sea-level rise of at least three metres uncertain, according to US scientists.



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